Namibian baby to have rare surgery in SA

Operation Smile South Africa's World Care Program (WCP) is set to bring severely deformed ten-month old Josephine Kandjala, a Namibian national, to Kwa-Zulu Natal for a life-saving surgery on 14 December 2011.

"Josephine suffers from a condition called an encephalocele. This is when part of the brain tissue protrudes from the confines of the skull," says Operation Smile South Africa's World Care Program Manager, Scarlett Steer. "In this relatively rare case, it is protruding between her eyes and below the nose."

She goes that this deformity is only reparable via complex and lengthy surgery, which can only be performed by a highly specialised craniofacial surgeon, of which there are relatively few in the world.

Professor Anil Madaree, Head of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban, and Medical Director of Operation Smile South Africa (OSSA), will be assisted by neurosurgeon Dr Le Roux and a full team of plastic surgeons, anaesthetists and nursing staff who will perform the surgery free of charge and on a voluntary basis.

Free surgical mission

"Kandjala was first brought to the attention of NamPharm Foundation Trust, an independent organisation that raises funds in order to provide medical treatments for children suffering from specified illnesses within Namibia," Steer explains.

"She was then referred to Operation Smile SA's World Care Program following their free surgical mission in Namibia at the beginning of 2011 and was identified as an eligible candidate for the World Care Program due to the severity of her facial deformity and the fact that surgeons and paediatricians in Namibia said there was nothing to be done for her due to the complexity of the case."

She says that the World Care Program aims to treat adults and children who are, by virtue of the complicated nature of their particular disfigurements, in need of more specialised craniofacial care than can be provided by the Operation Smile South Africa's volunteers and professionals during the missions.

"Patients are assessed and identified eligible for the program on a case-by-case basis and with the assistance of both the South African and, in this case, Namibian Ministry of Health, bought to Durban to benefit from the life-changing and often life-saving, medical care," Steer says. "Treatment is offered in South Africa to these patients at OSSA's dedicated craniofacial unit at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban."

Helping others

She points out that over the past five years, the hospital has always been incredibly supportive of these patients, covering all medical costs involved. "These are complex cases and their surgeries are intricate and highly specialised, but when our patients are at Albert Luthuli we know they are in the best hands possible," she adds.

Steer explains that Josephine's deformity is incredibly debilitating and has seen her and her mother not being accepted in society, and without the surgery she would never be able to attend school or lead a normal life.

"We are incredibly excited to be bringing Josephine to South Africa where she will begin her journey to a new life," concludes Steer.

(Sapa, December 2011)

(Photo provided by Operation Smile/Tin Can PR)

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